My Chinese-American husband loves Costco, the giant shopping warehouse. He had a Costco membership when I met him. Every Sunday morning, he did all the bulk-buying. I went with him. Once. Even though he insisted “it wasn’t that crowded, cuz church” there were still hordes of meandering, food-sampling shoppers in my way. I hated it. I’m a military shopper – my mantra is get in, get your objective, and get out. I revel in weaving among supermarket shopping carts with only a hand-held basket, like a sports car weaving through traffic. (And, like those sports car drivers, I probably get flipped off a lot.)
At Costco, though, there are only oversized shopping carts. So if I must go, I’m there on a weekday at 9:45 AM, waiting for the doors to open. List in hand, I race through my preplanned root. My record shopping time is 8 minutes and 24 seconds.
My visiting Chinese-American in-laws hounded me to take them to Costco two hours before it opened. We compromised and arrived a half-hour before they opened. I foolishly assumed Andy’s parents were like me, ready to Costco shop at top speed and efficiency.
Instead, I learned my in-laws operate under a very different set of rules.
Rule #1: Never shop on an empty stomach. You might make a beeline for the warehouse doors. They will go straight to the exterior food court and order a giant Costco pizza. While you wait for the pizza, you will helplessly watch the parking lot fill with shoppers. By the time the pizza is ready, shopping carts clogged every aisle.
Rule #2: Even if your Chinese-American in-laws have spent two days telling you you’ve gotten fat, you are expected to eat the all Costco pizza they put in front of you.
Rule #3: Protesting against pizza is futile. Should you be so foolish as to remind your in-laws that they recently said, “You’ve gotten fat!” they will counter with, “You eat now. You start diet when we leave!”
Rule #4: A daughter-in-law attempting to drive the shopping cart is a severe breach of etiquette. There will be protests. Loud ones. Followed by enough stares that your scene-eschewing, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant soul will shrivel into a mortified ball and you will relinquish the cart.
Rules #5: Walking by free samples is also as severe breach of etiquette. Expect protests until, cowed, you rejoin in-laws by samples.
Rule #6: Refusing samples is as futile as refusing pizza, and will end in a similar argument and you will lose yet again.
Rule #7: Insisting that you do not need a) 100 rolls of TP, or b) 30 cans of orange juice is another exercise in futility. (Even if you remind your in-laws that there is an actual orange tree in your backyard.)
Rule #8: Attempts to resist B (above) will be met with loud homilies on the merits of orange juice to keep one regular (thereby creating the logical need for A). Other shoppers will find such homilies entertaining enough to stop and watch. Do not encourage spectators with eye contact.
Rule #9: The desire to end the shopping trip as soon as possible will result in forgetting several items on your list.
Rule #10: One of those items will be antacids. Thanks to excessive pizza and scenes, there will be heartburn and serious regret by the time you reach the checkout.
Rule #11: Trying to pay for your Costco purchase will result in hostilities.
Rule #12 : Person with lower threshold for public scenes will lose hostilities.
Rule #13: WASPs have a much lower tolerance for scenes than Chinese-born. Don’t even try to compete.
Rule #14: The cost of Costco purchases will be discussed and sighed over for the entire car ride home and afternoon – “everything is so expensive here!” (Mind you, this is compared to Honolulu, which is truly a bastion of inexpensive products ALL SHIPPED IN BY BOAT.)
Rule #15: Amount of in-laws’ Costco purchase is directly proportional to the number of minutes non-purchaser is doomed to spend hearing about in-laws’ exorbitant medical bills during dinner. Heartburn increases with stress.
Which leads to my final rule:
Rule #16: Above all else, don’t forget the giant-sized bottle of Tums.